Parenting in the Bubble

It’s science time at the Parenting Success Network blog. That’s right: that means it’s time to take to the internet and google (it’s what we used to do before we started talking to Siri, but after we went to the library and pulled out the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature) “parenting.”

Somewhat disappointingly, this blog is not the first thing to come up in the search results, even in my own google bubble.  Although, here’s what does come up for me: “NPR readers share their best parenting advice,” and “Kim Kardashian West asks Kylie Jenner for baby advice.” I don’t really know what to say. Anyway, the heavy hitters are all on page one here. Parenting.com, good job with the brand management.

Wikipedia, just below it, defines “parenting” according to the democratic will of the (internet-abled) human race: “Parenting or child rearing is the process of promoting and supporting the physicalemotionalsocial, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the intricacies of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.” This is an accurate and utterly uninteresting encapsulation. More intriguingly, however, it goes on to say:

“Parenting styles vary by historical time period, race/ethnicity, social class, and other social features. Additionally, research has supported that parental history both in terms of attachments of varying quality as well as parental psychopathology, particularly in the wake of adverse experiences, can strongly influence parental sensitivity and child outcomes.”

Okay. So in other words, the quality of parenting depends on a lot of different things. What were we born with? What have we lived through, and what did we take with us? How many other things get our attention, energy, concentrated will? No wonder there are so many parenting blogs. Sheesh.

Most interesting, though, are the questions that those who come before us have asked; the search engine equivalent to the stones cast at the feet of the Omphalos of Delphi (a situation I may have just completely made up). Here are some of the top questions:

“What is a bad parent?”

This one kind of breaks my heart, not only because I don’t like to think about how bad my parenting is, but because I picture someone typing this question into the search field after having been accused of being one. A better question: “What is a good parent?” It goes back to that thing about the google bubble.

“What does it mean to be a parent?”

This is a good question, because it could be practical or purely philosophical. Clicking through brings up that pesky Wikipedia entry as well as one from, randomly, The Ministry of Education in Guyana.

“What are the parenting skills?”

No, really, what are the skills?

According to the Leelanau Children’s Center, which has been “serving families since 1976,” they are these:

  1. Love and affection.
  2. Stress Management.
  3. Relationship Skills.
  4. Autonomy and Independence.
  5. Education and Learning.
  6. Life Skills.
  7. Behavior Management.
  8. Health.
  9. Religion.
  10. Safety.

So, all the things, basically. It’s a lot to take in.

Kind of makes you want to google something, doesn’t it?

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Summer in Corvallis

This week’s post is by guest contributor Jessica Magnani, who compiled this information on free and low-cost Summer events for families in Corvallis. Thanks, Jessica!

 

$1 Swim Day

Osborn Aquatic Center

1940 NW Highland Dr.

Corvallis, OR 97330

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

1:00pm to 4:00pm

Celebrate Otter Beach seasonal opening on Memorial Day, cool down on Independence Day, and relax on Labor Day with a special price for open recreation!

 

Free Concerts

Corvallis Central park

650 NW Monroe Ave

Corvallis, OR 97330

Repeats every 2 weeks every Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018 – 7:30pm

The Hilltop Big Band presents another summer of free Central Park concerts.  Bring lawn chairs and blankets.

All ages welcome.

 

Penny Carnival

Corvallis Central park

650 NW Monroe Ave

Corvallis, OR 97333

Thursday, July 26, 2018 –

1:00pm to 3:30pm

Come play and celebrate community at the annual Penny Carnival! It’s just pennies to play! We’ll have music, wacky relays, old fashioned carnival games and much more! Buy a bundle of tickets for 25 cents each at the event and each activity costs 1 ticket! Concessions available for additional fees.

 

Movie Night at Avery Park

Thursday, August 16, 2018 –

5:00pm to 10:00pm

Enjoy an outdoor cinema experience with family and friends under the stars in beautiful Avery Park. All ages welcome!

 

Chintimini BBQ & Music in the Park

Celebrate summer with a community cookout, games and great music by local folk singer Cassandra Robertson! Cassandra is a local favorite whose original melodies are meant to inspire us to dream of a future that works for all!

The live music will be a great accompaniment to the burgers, chicken and hot dogs coming off the grill, plus potato salad, fruit salad, and dessert! Vegetarian options available upon request.   

All ages welcome!

Chintimini Senior & Community Center

2601 NW Tyler Ave

Friday, August 17, 4 – 7 pm
Tickets: $8 per person

 

Hiking & Parks

  • Fitton Green: 980 NW Panorama Drive Corvallis, OR 97330
  • Central Park: 650 NW Monroe Ave, Corvallis, OR     
  • Chip Ross: NW Lester Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330
  • Bald Hill: 375 NW Monroe Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330
  • Finley Park: 26208 Finley Refuge Rd, Corvallis, OR
  • Peavy Arboretum:  NW Peavy Arboretum Rd, Corvallis,   OR 97330
  • Siuslaw Forest: 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331
  • Avery Park: SW Avery Park Dr, Corvallis, OR 97333
  • Jackson Frazier Wetlands: 3460 NE Canterbury Cir, Corvallis, OR 97330

 

Beginning Reading Programs on Campus

4 years old & Entering Kindergarteners: In this fun summer program, your child will learn how to read! Children will learn letter recognition, beginning phonics, and easy sight words!

1-5th grade: Your child will learn strong phonics and decoding skills, build sight vocabulary, learn how to read fluently and rapidly, and develop strong comprehension skills!

On campus: Oregon State University

4 year-old & Kindergarteners: June 24-July 22: 9 AM-10 AM

1st grade: June 24-July 22: 10:30 AM- 12:15 Pm

2nd grade: June 24-July 22: 1-2:45 PM

3rd grade: June 24-July 22: 3:15-5 PM

4th grade: June 19-July 17: 3-5 PM

5th grade: June 19-July 17: 12:30- 2:30 PM

For more information or to register, call (800)570-8936

 

Corvallis Farmers Market

The Corvallis Farmers Market happens Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 9am to 1pm, April through November, on First Street between Jackson Avenue and Monroe Avenue, in downtown Corvallis.

The Saturday Corvallis Farmers Market has a changing lineup of 50-70 vendors per week, and the Wednesday market usually offers 20-30 vendors.

 

Da Vinci Days

July 21, 2018- 10 AM- 8:30 PM

Saturday activities at the Benton County Fairgrounds run from

9 am to 8:30 pm, and will include Day 1 of the ever-popular

Grand Kinetic Challenge (pageantry, road race, and sand dune),

the Children’s Village, various exhibits by OSU and local artists and makers,

food, and great local musicians throughout the afternoon. Festival

exhibits and activities go until 4 pm, while entertainment continues

until 8:30.  As the exhibits end, grab dinner from our food vendors,

find your spot on the lawn, and enjoy the evening entertainment!

 

Second Saturday Art Days

Join the Arts Center every month for art making and

activities for the whole family.

March 10, 2018-December 08, 2018

Admission: Free

Location: The Arts Center
700 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97333

 

Jessica Magnani is an intern at Family Tree Relief Nursery and is completing a degree program at Oregon State University.

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Foster the People

I encounter foster parents quite a bit in my line of work. Of all the categories into which people can be sifted, I believe that foster providers have one of the bummest deals around.

I tend to approach them as fellow professionals, who are just doing a job like the rest of us. I am thus buying into one of the most common myths about foster care, which is that it’s something you do for money. In fact, pretty much any other pursuit, including selling lemonade and becoming a philosopher, is more profitable. Foster care is asking everything from a provider that one expects from a biological parent, only on time and with precise documentation.

Foster parents, I salute you.

Turns out, as I found on a little stroll through the search engines, there are quite a few myths about foster care out there. Some of them are probably preventing folks from becoming foster providers. That’s really too bad, ‘cuz we need ’em.

Here are some.

 

From this blog:

“MYTH: Most children in foster care are teenagers.

REALITY: The median age of children in foster care in the U.S. is eight. Almost 50% are over age 10, and an estimated 70% have siblings in foster care.”

Are older kids more “difficult?” Not necessarily. It means they are more likely to have had multiple foster placements and can sure use a stable home. There are a lot of resources and services available to assist with older kids and teens. Plus, no diapers!

 

MYTH: I have to stay at home to be a foster parent.

Umm, this is the 21st Century. People work. A foster parent is a regular human, and parenting is hard no matter what. You are allowed to live your life and drive kids to as many sports practices as you want. You can also get a babysitter (Solo comes out May 25th!).

 

From this site:

MYTH: Foster parents need to be parents themselves, and not too old.

You don’t need to have (or have had) biological children in order to be a foster parent. All you need is to want to parent. As a verb.

 

If you are in the least bit interested, there are a lot of resources out there. Here are some specific to Oregon. We have an overwhelming need in this state right now. You might find you’re more able, and ready, than you think.

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On Chores: The Revenge

Howdy all! It’s time for my semi-annual update on chores.

I would like to remind you that this is only my family’s experience with trying out a system for chores, and that what worked (or didn’t work) for us may not apply to you. It’s a process.

If you look back at the earlier entries (which, by the way, automatically multiplies the value of this post!), you will see that my wife and I had decided to abandon the large whiteboard, with magnets representing each child that moved around the chores in age-appropriate fashion. We discovered that they liked to keep their own stable chores, so the next iteration was as follows:

“Instead of rotating chores, each child now had their own laminated sheet with a list of duties. They could mark them off as they went with a pen, or draw pictures around them, or pull them down and lose them under the sofa. Their choice!”

That was last year. Here’s how it has panned out.

They still like having their own lists. After choosing to lose them under the sofa several times, all four of my daughters have asked us to affix their list on a wall or door where they can see and/or notate it: the seven year-old has added “hug Mama.” I don’t know how that wasn’t in the first draft.

The seven year-old also can’t remember what’s on the list from day to day. Part of this, I think is the literacy bias, which posits that what is on the page is more important than what she perfectly well has in her motor memory by now (given that fully half of her chores consist of getting dressed and brushing her teeth and hair). Part of it is that she can’t actually read yet, so she has to check with someone every time she undertakes her chores.

Next time: pictures instead of words? That she can move from one side to the other with velcro? That sounds like a fabulous idea, but I will leave it to you crafty parents that I know are out there.

Anyway, there has been some revision of chores, and some elimination of redundancy. But for the most part, I think this system is working.

What works for you?

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Danger Little Stranger

 

Last week I presented a lightly “humorous” take on the products that babies and toddlers absolutely need (spoiler: not really many of them).  This week it’s serious. If quoting Iggy Pop lyrics doesn’t raise alarms for you, I don’t know what to do. So I’ll just tell you.

I wanted to follow up with a survey of products for infants and small children that are not only unnecessary, but downright dangerous.

Before we get into it, I just want to admit that researching this topic online was both disturbing and highly entertaining. If you would like to know about some of the specific products considered too ludicrously deadly to exist, help yourself. I won’t be mentioning them.

Having made a tally of the toys and accessories for babies that have drawn the most ire from pediatricians and safety experts, I give you the following:

Things in cribs. Really, there shouldn’t be anything in there with them. No pillows, nor blankets, nor Grandma’s handmade quilt. No plush toys, no soft bumper pads. All of these things can asphyxiate or strangle.

Also, any vintage cribs. The slats are too far apart. As someone who once watched a toddler (not my own) get his head stuck in a dollhouse, you can imagine the concern with this.

Magnets. Because they stick together. If they can be swallowed…again, use your imagination.

Anything with small parts or pieces that can be removed or broken. This is where the minimum age labels come in handy. Look, we all love Legos, even after we step on them with bare feet. But if anyone in the house is still inclined to stick things in their mouth (aka the toddler research lab), please save them for later.

Walkers. These things a.) don’t help babies develop walking muscles sooner; in fact, they’ve been found to do the opposite, and b.) have a tendency to go down stairs and/or trap children under or against other dangerous things (hot stoves, wolves). Canada banned them 14 years ago, and we know Canada is smart. And good looking.

Bumbo seats. I have a personal vendetta against these multiply-recalled baby tippers. Putting a belt on it isn’t going to make it any safer if they fall off a table or simply tumble over backward, pinning babies underneath.

Really, if you feel the urge to just pick up a baby and carry it around, sniffing its head, that’s probably the way to go. Trust your instincts.

 

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Give and Take

Among the nearly 2 billion humans* who observe Lent, there is an imperative, or at least an ideal, to which to aspire: to give as much as possible during this time. The idea is that all those fewer hamburgers and milkshakes (or whatever else you may be giving up) should free up extra funds for those less fortunate.

That’s always a good idea, and it’s certainly needed in these difficult financial times. There are over 20,000 charitable organizations registered in the state of Oregon, and all of them can use our help. There’s nothing wrong with a tax deduction, either.

But what if I were to suggest that it’s at least as important to use these services for your own family, if you have a need? Is there any point to accept help at the same time we’re offering it? Don’t these actions cancel one another out?

Consider that all of those organizations, whatever their size or focus, depend on the reporting of numbers for their continued operation and expansion. We know the need is out there, as 45 million Americans are still living below the poverty line (the measurement of which has itself been criticized as failing to present the extent of American poverty). But in many of these organizations, the resources are not finding themselves in the hands of families that need them. This is particularly true of food, much of which is wasted as it expires or otherwise fails to reach its intended recipients.

The way it works, in the economics of nonprofit, is that the more people they serve, the more they are able to serve. After all, they are built to serve, and they succeed when the families who need help know about their services and partake of them.

So, if you are a family, like mine, that sometimes finds it challenging to make ends meet, there are two imperatives to follow: give what you can, and accept what you need.

 

*Current estimate is 1.29 billion Catholics and 250 million Eastern Orthodox. This is not to mention between 14 and 18 million in Judaism ,  1.8 billion in Islam,  or 1.15 billion in Hinduism, all of which place a special emphasis on charitable giving.

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Some Class

 

What’s that old joke that isn’t as funny as we think it is? About how kids don’t come with a manual? (Also, why are there always a couple of extra grommets? Was it just me?)

A corollary to that joke is a serious question: if there were classes on how to be a parent, would you take them?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re already a parent and you don’t need no outside learnin’. Life is the best teacher. Your child is the best teacher. You are the expert on your kids.

All of those things are true. And that’s exactly why you should consider taking a class.

In a plug of epic shamelessness, I would like to recommend the Nurturing Parenting classes offered at Family Tree Relief Nursery.

Starting this week, they are offering three separate classes.

On Wednesday:

  • is the general Nurturing Parenting class. It is for moms, dads, grandparents, and caretakers of all stripes (even with stripes!).

Thursdays feature two classes:

  • Nurturing Fathers, for dads and male caretakers only and co-facilitated by yours truly, and the
  • Nurturing Parenting class for parents in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery.

All three classes are FREE, and offer childcare, dinner and bus and transportation assistance.

All three classes focus on doing the work on ourselves that help us to help our kids–nurturing ourselves and each other so that we can nurture them.

To enroll in a class, simply call Family Tree at 541-967-6580.

Hope to see you there!

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Volunteers

As much as I write about ways to guide and structure the lives of our kids (as much as that is advisable or possible), I am always surprised by the ways in which our kids can influence the course of our own lives.

On the most basic level, the fact of becoming a parent will (ideally, I believe) stop your life in its tracks as it takes on new passengers. No doubt (also, ideally), you have done your best to prepare yourself for what is to come.

But as you might remember, no amount of preparation really made you ready. Right? No reading, no financial reinforcement (getting a job, say), no supplies, no advice (especially no advice) is sufficient for the journey. Learn all you want about an expedition to Mars, you haven’t done it ’til you’ve done it. And even then, having one kid (or two, or five) is no indication of what the next one will bring.

As the years go by, the compass continues to spin. Kids’ needs change and the ground keeps shifting. Keeping up with the routines, figuring out what they need at each stage, can be exhausting.

What can a parent do?

Sometimes, the only thing to do is let go.

It took me a while to realize that when my oldest daughter kept asking to volunteer–at my work, at church events, in response to other family’s request for help–it wasn’t a whim, but a trait.  And since she’s 12 and can’t drive, she needs someone to go with her. And that is me.

Eventually I saw the pattern. Volunteering makes her happy. As someone who can barely cross the room without the expectation of a reward, I only came around to this gradually. It took me even longer to realize that volunteering is good for me as well. In fact, I’d say it’s still in process. My daughter’s easy selflessness reminds me of how self-absorbed I am.

And that I can change. Still! Who knew?

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A Thousand Bedtimes

Happy Holidays! I wanted to revisit a post from three years ago in which I described an essential component of our bedtime routine. What surprised me about the post (other than the fact that three years have passed!) is how little has changed in our routine. I still recite the words below for the two youngest girls, with enough fidelity that they catch it immediately if I change a word. It is preceded by my “getting the bad dreams out” (usually through their fingers, though occasionally a potential nightmare is lodged in a toe or nostril); putting some good dreams in “just in case” (via kisses on the forehead) and a silly one in the ear. The words are followed by a round of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” For my ten year-old, for whom I first came up with it, I have to be sure to fit some variation of it in before I turn out the light.

Again, I encourage you to use any or all of this, or to come up with your own.

Sweet dreams!

***

If there is a secret to our parenting, it is bedtime.

There is a lot to say about the importance of calm, consistent bedtime routines, and it’s something I will return to in future posts. A lot of information out there, and I’ve found that most of it is along the same lines. There is a good primer on the Parents website, and another on babycentre, focusing on bedtime for toddlers. It’s British, and that’s okay.

Establishing these routines take time and experimentation. It takes a while to see what works, and as the needs of children change with age, and the seasons (and the light!), what worked in the past may not work now. What didn’t work before may work again later.

It is important in a routine to have signposts, things that signal to a child that it is time to get into the space of bedtime. I light candles in the bedroom (one for each of them because, you know, fairness) and, when they have put on their pajamas and brushed their teeth, they each choose a book to read aloud. When the reading is done, they blow out their candle and get into bed. I spend some time with each of them in turn, and I do this:

It’s a relaxation ritual that I have been using with my daughters every night for the last few months. I keep asking them if they are tired of it, if they want to try something different, but they insist on doing it exactly the same way each night. I think there’s something to be said for the comfort children find in repetition that we adults may not share or understand. Have your kids ever asked you to read the same book or tell the same story over and over?

This is how it goes, word for word. I don’t remember how I came up with it, exactly, but I have to give credit to an episode of Frasier in which a character is asked to put their angry thoughts in a balloon and watch it drift away. It’s a good recurring joke in the show, but I must have thought it might work for bedtime.

 

Now I want you to take everything that has bothered you throughout the day

(And only you know what those things are)

And I want you to put them inside a balloon.

It can be any kind of balloon you can imagine,

Any shape, any size, any color.

And when you’re ready, I want you to take that balloon outside

And let go of the string

And watch the balloon drift up, and up, and up,

Further and further into the sky,

Until it’s just a little dot

And then it’s gone

Leaving nothing but clear sky.

No more worries,

No more cares,

And you’re ready to rest.

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An Invitation

Psst. Hey. Ever thought of taking a parenting class?

Why would you do such a thing? For many who do, the answer is that someone has said you’ve gotta. That’s not necessarily a bad reason, as these things go, but I would like to make a case for just taking one anyway.

Here’s why:

  1. You’re always going to learn something. Even if you already supposedly know it all. Because your perspective is yours and though it may be working 60-87% of the time (I don’t know anyone who claims to be an A parent), it will benefit you to step out of your point of view and into another one. Any other one, really. Heck, even if you’ve already taken an parenting class it will be different this time because things change. Your kids have changed; they have different needs now and different things are coming up. Things might be challenging now that weren’t even on your radar last time.
  2. Other people will be there. Probably people with whom you aren’t friends on Facebook. They most likely haven’t had you over for dinner (at least not yet). These people have a variety of backgrounds and experiences to offer you, and they will almost certainly learn something from you too. Plus, one of them might know how to fix your dishwasher. But seriously (that was serious too). Networking and community-building are two of the most valuable things that can come out of a parenting class.
  3. They’re everywhere. Just look at this very website. Starting in January, there is a veritable cornucopia (an overflowing horn thing!) of classes, offered in Corvallis, Albany and Lebanon, Sweet Home, Philomath and Scio. You can barely drive on the street without passing one. Also, there are the Collaborative Problem Solving workshops, described by people I know as life-changing. And, ahem, the place where I work  offers a full rack o’ classes in the Nurturing Parenting program, something I write about a lot. And I teach Nurturing Fathers, which is the only thing going just for dads, as far as I know, anywhere around. Though I would love to have some competition. Finally, I can’t speak for everyone else, but ours are free, and will feed you and take care of your kids to boot.

I don’t even know what you’re waiting for. See you next year!

 

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